Rafael Nadal, Roland Garros magazine

Prior to Roland Garros 2015, Rafael Nadal talked to Roland Garros Magazine about his past decade at Roland Garros. Here are a few extracts:

2003 and 2004: injuries

In 2003, I was high enough in the rankings (No. 87) for direct acceptance into the main draw but I hurt my elbow, so I had to withdraw.

In 2004, I had a bad left foot injury and I was off from April until July. This time though I came to Paris as I was invited by one of my sponsors. It was the first time that I’d been at Roland Garros. I was on crutches, but it didn’t stop me from going all the way to the top of the stands at Philippe Chatrier Court. I sat on one of the seats to the right of the court to drink in the atmosphere. It’s a fond memory for me. I was disappointed not to be able to play but deep down, I knew that sooner or later I would be able to take part in the tournament.

Tennis on clay:

Tennis on clay is the most complete expression of the sport as far as I’m concerned. The rallies are longer since the surface is slower, so you have to construct every point and implement a strategy to try to grind down your opponent. You need to be more patient, know how to defend and find a way to take control of points. And if you like this surface and feel at home on it, Roland Garros is obviously the temple of clay. It’s a unique point in the season.

2005, first Roland Garros trophy:

I’d won a lot of titles on clay – in Brazil, Acapulco, Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome, so I had a lot of confidence. I knew that I had the game and the strength to go deep. During the tournament, I just took one match at a time, but I knew that if I played my best, I could achieve something.
When I see myself in 2005, I see a player with an incredible energy and enormous powers of concentration. I was on such a good form. I played with real intensity and passion. I was young and I had a carefree attitude you would expect of a 19-year-old. In the final against Mariano Puerta, I knew that it would be a difficult match and that’s what it was. But I knew that anything was possible. This win will always be a key moment in my career. In the space of two months, I went from No. 50 in the world to winning Roland Garros. I handled it well in my head, because after this win, I stayed the same, I carried on working hard to keep on the right path as best I could.

It’s true that after that first win, I thought “That’s it, my dream has come true, so now the rest of my career, I will be calmer.” But I’d got it all wrong. Because each season, it was the same thing – you’re nervous, you want to win because you want to get back that indescribable feeling of emerging victorious at a Grand Slam tournament. So this feeling of calm that I thought I had got with that win turned out to be very temporary because a few months later, the tension and the desire to give it my all came back – stronger than before.

Not only the King of clay:

Winning at Roland Garros gives you the strength and the confidence to win elsewhere. Because when you start winning, you get into a virtuous circle: winning boosts your confidence, it makes you calmer, you gain more experience and it gives you a healthy dose of positive energy. Roland Garros is therefore a unique tournament in my career because it also enabled me to win on hard courts, on grass and everywhere else. In 2005, a lot of people thought that I could only play on clay, but after I won the French Open, I went on to win the Masters 1000 in Montreal and the tournament in Madrid (then played on hard courts), so I was good enough to win on other surfaces.

2008, 2012, 2014:

Lots of things have happened to me at Roland Garros. 2008 for example was the year that I was further ahead the pack than ever before. I didn’t drop a set and think that this is the tournament where I played my best tennis.
In 2014 against Novak Djokovic, it was the toughest final physically. I’d never felt that tired – at the end of the first set as well. It was very hot, humid and muggy even though it had been quite cool throughout the fortnight. My body struggled with it. I also had some fitness problems during this tournament.
In 2012, I had cortisone injections to play because my knee was hurting. Thee was another year, I forget which one, when I also needed injections, this time on my foot. But injuries and fitness issues are part and parcel of being a tennis professional. With hindsight, I can see that the injuries led to me missing some important moments and tournaments but at the same time, they allowed me to put into perspective everything that I’ve achieved.

Rafael Nadal, Roland Garros Magazine

2009:

That defeat in 2009 was a hard one to swallow, I won’t deny that, but at the same time it wasn’t a tragedy. You mustn’t blow it out of proportion. I’d won the tournament in 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008. And I told myself that I wasn’t going to win Roland Garros every year and that’s normal, I can actually lose, I know that, so I went home and decided to prepare as best I could to try to win it again.

2010:

It was a very special victory. Even if I didn’t drop a set this year, it wasn’t as easy as in 2008. I was coming from a long way back. 2009 was a very tough year, both personally and physically. I hurt my knee before Roland Garros then after that it was my stomach muscles during the American swing. I went through some bad times. And after all that, I came back and won Roland Garros again. I was very, very emotional, and this win was the starting point of an exceptional period because I went on to win Wimbledon and the US Open. And once again it all started at Roland Garros.

Source: Roland Garros Magazine

Also read:
Roland Garros 2005: Nadal defeats Puerta
Roland Garros 2014: a fan’s perspective on Nadal’s win
Roland Garros 2015 coverage

Following an overnight rain delay, Rafael Nadal defeated Novak Djokovic at the 2012 French Open final, marking his record-breaking seventh title win at Roland Garros. Rafa’s fans were behind him all the way, and ahead of the championship match Nike Tennis encouraged them to submit messages of support on the Nike Tennis Facebook page.

The names of those fans were written on 5,000 paintballs, which were then shot onto a blank canvas to create the “Unstoppable” image of Rafa as a celebration of his historic achievement. Check out the making of video below, created by the Kennedy’s and Wieden+Kennedy.

From Lars Burgsmuller to Novak Djokovic, all the players Nadal beat en route for his 7 Roland Garros titles (click to enlarge):

Via Vistadium

The good:

A sunny first week filled with big upsets and emotions

The feel good story of the tournament: Virginie Razzano

Prior to the 2011 French Open’s start, Razzano’s fiancé Stéphane Vidal died of a brain tumor. He had encouraged her to go ahead and enter the tournament, so she did, honoring his memory by stepping on court to play, but lost in the first round.
At the 2012 French Open, Razzano handed Serena Williams her first-ever first-round defeat at a major. Razzano came back from a set and 1-5 down in the second-set tie-break to emerge victorious 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-3. She was up 5-0 in the final set at one point and needed eight match points to close out the match. She lost to Arantxa Rus in the second round.

Maria Sharapova:
Despite her countless magazine covers, numerous contracts with Nike, Tiffany, Canon and co, Sharapova’s main goal is to win tennis trophies. She beat surprise finalist Sara Errani 6-3, 6-2 to win her first French Open title and become the 10th woman with a career Grand Slam.

Maria Sharapova

Novak Djokovic:
He could have been the first man since Rod Laver to hold the 4 Grand Slam trophies at the same time, but Nadal was just better than him in final.

Sam Stosur:
Another great performance in Paris for Sam… until her nervous breakdown in semifinals against Errani. She has vowed to use the pain of another French Open heartache (remember that final against Schiavone?) as the spur to one day reign supreme in Paris.

Sam Stosur

David Ferrer: a bittersweet performance for Ferru: he reached the semifinals for the first time at Roland Garros, but Nadal was merciless and dismantled him 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 in 1 hour and 46 minutes.

Sara Errani: it was the Slam of a lifetime for Errani. She beat two former French open champions (Ana Ivanovic and Svetlana Kuznetsova) and two top 10 players (Angelique Kerber and Sam Stosur) en route for her first Grand Slam final. I really doubt she will repeat her performance at another Grand Slam, but you never know with these Italian players…
She also teamed with Roberta Vinci to win the doubles title, beating Maria Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: 4 match points against Djokovic and a ton of regrets.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

Sloane Stephens:
The 19-year-old American showed great potential and advanced to the fourth round for the first time in a Grand Slam. Could she be the “Next Great Thing” in American tennis?

Sloane Stephens

Arnaud Clément:
Beaten by David Goffin in the second round, Clement, 34, played his last Roland Garros. He is one of the favorite (along Cédric Pioline) to be named France’s new Davis Cup captain.

Arnaud Clement

The bad:

A second week wasted by rain and by the questionable decisions made regarding the schedule (Tsonga-Wawinka, Nadal-Djokovic…)

Serena Williams:
Serena Williams was 46-0 in first-round matches at Grand Slams before her stunning loss to Virginie Razzano at Roland Garros.

Roger Federer:
Even though he reached the semifinals again and passed Jimmy Connors for the most Grand Slam wins in the Open Era ( 237 for Federer, 233 for Connors), Roger Federer never looked like a real contender the past two weeks.
Beaten in straights by Novak Djokovic, the Swiss hasn’t won a Grand Slam in over two years. Can he bounce back at Wimbledon?

Roger Federer

Juan-Martin Del Potro: he lead Federer by two sets to love, and then completely disappeared without a fight

Juan Martin Del Potro

Andy Murray:
Journalists keep talking and talking and a talking about the Big 4. In my opinion, they should stop, there are only three dominant players on the men’s circuit. In the way he plays, in his attitude, in his results, Andy Murray is far far away from Djokovic, Nadal and Federer.

Andy Murray

Jelena Jankovic: Ousted by Varvara Lepchenko in the second round. Who remembers she was once the world number one?

Jelena Jankovic

The king:

Rafael Nadal:
7th Roland Garros title, 11th Grand Slam title and 50th career title. He’s also the 4th player to win a Slam title for 8 years in a row, joining Bjorn Borg, Roger Federer and Pete Sampras.

Rafael Nadal

Novak Djokovic’s road to the final

Round Opponent Score
R1 Potito Starace 7-6, 6-3, 6-1
R2 Blav Kavcic 6-0, 6-4, 6-4
R3 Nicolas Devilder 6-1, 6-2, 6-2
R4 Andreas Seppi 4-6, 6-7, 6-3, 7-5, 6-3
QF Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-1, 5-7, 5-7, 7-6, 6-1
SF Roger Federer 6-4, 7-5, 6-3

Rafael Nadal’s road to the final

Round Opponent Score
R1 Simone Bolelli 6-2, 6-2, 6-1
R2 Denis Isomin 6-2, 6-2, 6-0
R3 Eduardo Schwank 6-1, 6-3, 6-4
R4 Juan Monaco 6-2, 6-0, 6-0
QF Nicolas Almagro 7-6, 6-2, 6-3
SF David Ferrer 6-2, 6-2, 6-1

Maria Sharapova crushed Sara Errani 6-3 6-2 and completes a career Grand Slam.
Only nine other women had won each of the Slams: Maureen Connolly, Doris Hart, Shirley June Fry Irvin, Margaret Court, Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf and Serena Williams.

Congrats to Maria, who’s also back at the number 1 ranking.